This is the one of many (at least monthly) columns to be written by UMBC Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Brown. Dr. Brown is believed to be the longest-tenured AD in the state, with 20 years at the helm of the Retrievers. He has been an athletic director since 1981 and has served two terms as president of the Maryland Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and one term on the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything for our website, but as you can imagine with our “profile” expanding so quickly, my time to devote to writing has been very limited. I’ve been able to put some time into this venture and hopefully will provide several writings in the months to come. So here goes…

I’ve been an athletic director for nearly three decades, a Division I student-athlete (wrestler), and a coach for 15 seasons. I believe I know a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful student-athlete on any level—youth/club/high school/college and beyond! I’ve listened to the best coaches and the best athletes in our country and these are the six necessary ingredients for success (besides talent and some luck). Mix the ingredients together and you have a champion.

  2. Play hard and work hard. 
    Practice is oftentimes tedious and very strenuous. However, successful athletes come to practice every day ready for the hardest workout of their lives. This type of mindset going into practice needs to occur every day. Some workouts are done all alone in a gym, fitness center, or maybe out in the local park. You must train even when no one is watching you at 5:30 a.m. doing your road work.
  3. Finish what you start. 
    For many participants, college athletics is a culmination of many years of playing in youth sports, attending sport clinics and camps, playing travel ball, participating in middle school and, finally, high school. Sometimes there is more than a decade of hard work and pushing one’s self to reach senior status on a college team. Injuries are commonplace and a part of sports. Getting back to playing is part physical and part mental. Riding the bench and waiting for your chance is a common occurrence and, often, athletes will quit, unwilling to finish what they start. How to cope with set backs and “hanging in” while waiting for your turn can be worthwhile. I can name many examples of student-athletes who turned it around when finally getting the chance. Even if you don’t win a championship, the self-satisfaction you will have will stay with you forever.
  4. Love your sport—display a great attitude. 
    Practice, injuries, “bench warming”, balancing all your responsibilities, pressure, etc.—it all adds up to the burden put upon student-athletes. Why do it? Because you love your sport—don’t dread it—RELISH it! Your attitude toward your sport is paramount. For example, in basketball, dive after every loose ball, think every rebound is yours, play defense even when your teammates aren’t, and be supportive of teammates while you’re on the bench. Your attitude is what everyone sees. Coaches love great attitude—enthusiasm is catching and leads to team spirit and success.
  5. Make good decisions. 
    Remember—with every decision you make, you represent your family, your school, your team, and your chosen sport on and off the court. You’ve got plenty of choices. For example—do you party when you shouldn’t or do you study when you should, both in season and out? Is your behavior toward your teammates and opponents positive and appropriate, or are you a sore loser and unsportsmanlike? Do you cheat on academics? Do you succumb to pressure of underage drinking or take illegal drugs that are unsafe or unethical? Student-athletes have choices to make every day and we hope by receiving positive reinforcement from parents, coaches, teachers, and administrators, the correct decisions are made. There are no short cuts to success and coaches look for solid citizens. Someone once said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
  6. Choose the right friends. 
    Everyone likes positive people—“can-do” people; glass is “half full” people. However, in every game there is a winner and a loser. Sports is an activity that brings out the emotions of its participants. Losing causes problems for many people. As the saying goes, misery loves company and unhappy players often are attracted to others who are unhappy causing teams to get worse. When things aren’t going right, stay away from unhappy, negative, excuse makers. Don’t be the “Prophet of Doom.” Don’t let others bring you down. Seek out positive people!
  7. Develop your balance. 
    Athletics can be overwhelming and consume a young person’s mind. Analyze your day/week/year and create a balance between school responsibilities, athletic responsibilities, and social life. There are times when everyone must lighten up. It takes work and planning to create this balance. Be organized and disciplined to handle your responsibilities. Eat right, sleep right, develop positive habits, and vary your interests.

Of course, there are other factors that will affect success. Parents have a huge influence. Seek out great coaching and instruction for your children. Place them in an appropriate level of competition. Diversify their athletic experiences and do not specialize too early. Don’t apply too much pressure—make it fun for your children. Set appropriate and realistic goals. Finally, give them space to grow on their own.

No one is more attractive to a potential employer than a successful student-athlete. Successful student-athletes are known to be good team members in the world of work. They are well-rounded and success oriented.

I’ve played, coached, and administered sports since the late 1950’s. I was lucky and for the most part, have had very positive and rewarding experiences. Like everything in life, you usually get out what you put into it. Good luck and enjoy!